July 25, 2008 |
Gizmodo noticed that Aurora Feint spent some time yesterday delisted from Apple's App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch, apparently due to security violations. The app, a game that's part casual gaming, part MMO, was alleged to be sending a user's contact list up to the Aurora Feint servers unencrypted.
The game is back in the App Store today with the contact list integration feature removed, and additional security features, according to the Aurora Feint staff, who are also doing a bit of damage control based on some of the rumors that got started after the Gizmodo article. The updated version, available today, includes encryption as well as bug fixes that should prevent the frequent crashes and add levels for those who have completed the game.
The question that iPhone and iPod Touch users are left with, however, is how the app ever got into the App Store in the first place with the security issues. The directive of the App Store was supposed to bring additional security for Apple customers, including checks of all apps allowed in the store. Did they miss the issues with Aurora Feint or is their fine-tooth comb more like a rake?
My assumption is that it's more like a rake considering the latest issues with the WordPress tool that was released. Not long after the app got listed in the App Store, the source code was released. The app itself is licensed under the GPL, but as Aristotle Pagaltzis points out in a response to a post by John Gruber, GPL apps can't, by rights, appear in the App Store. The Free Software Foundation had already pointed out that the restrictions that Apple places on the apps that appear in the App Store violate the GPL's terms of distribution, and Pagaltzis concurs. The GPL forbids any third party from restricting distribution, and yet Apple places more restrictions on the apps in the store than any non-lawyer can keep track of.
Apple's closed and proprietary system has long been a cause for concern with free software and open standards advocates. Many users are willing to deal with Apple's limitations based on certain assumptions, like the promise that apps listed in the store would be secure. If Apple can't even guarantee that, then why the restrictions? And how safe are the rest of the apps?